Spotting Ineffective Meetings

December 16, 2021 · 5 min readMeeting Culture

Unproductive meetings are trying on your patience and boring for your employees. They take more than a chunk out of your business's morale. Ineffective meetings also cost you money.

Nation-wide, the cost of ineffective meetings each year is staggering, as 36–56 million meetings are occurring every year in the United States. Unproductive meetings don't discriminate based on size. Whether small or large, your conference has the potential to be useless and costly to your business if you don't take steps to assure success. 

The impact of inefficient meetings

Where does the cost of ineffective meetings come from in your business's budget? It comes from the loss of productivity of your team while they waste time in discussion.

Every year between $70–283 billion is thrown at meetings that prove fruitless for businesses across the country. This roughly translates to 31 hours per month of wasted time for professionals. 

In the long term, your financial losses due to poor meeting management are not the only ill effect on your company. You're also going to deal with the following list of issues:

  • Lower morale

  • Less employee engagement 

  • Conflicts at work

  • Less innovation

  • Higher employee turnover

  • Longer sales cycles due to lack of understanding

7 Characteristics of ineffective meetings and solutions to make them rock

You may not know the characteristics of ineffective meetings. In that case, you can't even begin to change how your meetings are working to improve your overall business strategies. You want meetings to be a place of innovation, collaboration, and morale-boosting camaraderie for your business. Start by identifying how your meetings are not working to make that goal possible. 

1. The obvious characteristic of poor meeting management

If you want to spot a poorly run meeting fast, go into your next conference and look around the room. Distractions are a glaringly obvious characteristic of ineffective meetings. Nothing says your team is not focused on you or the task at hand like:

  • People taking phone calls

  • A room full of texters

  • One extensive email reading session

  • Late arrivals and frequent break takers

How to reduce meeting distractions

You can start by making a special request for your audience when you open the meeting. Simply asking your team to respect one another's time by refraining from various distractions can help a meeting stay focused and short. You can also send this information out on an itinerary of your session beforehand. 

You may want to make an etiquette section due to repeated distracting behaviors. In that case, it should get your point across. These are all tasks for the designated meeting leader. 

2. Poorly run meetings lack leadership

A poorly run meeting lacks structure and leadership. While a structureless meeting may originate from your inner desires to be chill with your team, it can end up being a huge time suck.

How to improve meeting structure

If your meeting is running poorly, the first thing you need to do is have a designated ring leader — someone who ensures the meeting stays on task and easily transitions from one topic to another. You may choose to be this person or take a more background role. Regardless, the meeting leader you select should follow some valuable tips. 

  • Begin the meeting with a rundown of the fundamental objectives. 

  • Give a general purpose to get everyone thinking in the right direction.

  • Forget the overall length of the meeting. 

You need to focus on the tasks at hand instead. One task can quickly take over if the designated leader doesn't keep the meeting under wraps. Be sure to set a time limit for each topic, then stick to it as if your life depends on it. 

Flexibility is also key. You don't want to go over your meeting time too much because it can be frustrating to everyone. You also don't want to hold people to a conversation that is clearly over because the timer has run out. 

3. Too many people in attendance

It can be very tempting to invite everyone to your meeting who has even the slightest bit of connection with a project as a result of:

  • Looking for feedback

  • Showing off new business features

Whatever the case may be, resist the temptation to over-invite people to your meeting. Limiting your attendance list to those directly interested in the conference's purpose makes tackling the objectives and staying on task easier. 

How to limit your attendance list

Select each of your meeting participants with care by asking yourself some pivotal questions before extending invitations:

  • Who absolutely must attend this meeting?

  • Who will have the necessary answers?

  • Who needs to know what is going on?

  • Is this meeting essential for anyone's daily operations?

  • Would it be better to send an email?

Make sure that you invite the most suitable people who can contribute to and advance from the contents of the meeting. 

4. No-shows and late arrivals

It can be a clear sign of a dysfunctional meeting when your attendees are skipping out early or showing up late. When you have a large number of no-shows at company meetings, it can be a sign that the conference has become near worthless.  

Did you know that over 30% of meetings start late? When your participants expect your sessions to start late, they will likely show up late. 

How to start meetings on time

One way to start your meetings on time is to create a schedule. Having pre-made templates and plans that fit your business can help reduce the planning time on your end.

If your meeting is getting a lot of no-shows, there are a few tricks you can try to get people to come:

  1. Make attendance mandatory

  2. Use scheduling apps that coordinate everyone's schedule 

  3. Follow-up with auto-adding calendar events features to keep everyone in the loop 

Finally, suppose no-shows are a persistent problem for you. In that case, you can send out notifications 10–20 minutes before the meeting starts to begin reminding everyone. 

5. You are talking into the air and met with silence

Another sign to spot when looking at the effectiveness of meetings is participation. 

Does your conference have a section for Q & A or creative discussion? Well, if during this time you are met with silence or unprepared answers, you could be impacted by one of two things:

  • Poor meeting management

  • Working with a group of introverted employees

As the team leader, you must get to know your employees and help them thrive in the workplace. In doing so, you are gaining:

  • Someone who is attentive and listens to information presented

  • Someone who thinks through responses and ideas 

Make participation fun for your team or employees

You can incorporate technology to bring in a gamified response element. Interactive networking via technology can be easier for introverts than giving speeches to rope in these employees. A plus side to having an interactive network response system going during your meeting is recording responses and meeting conversations. 

Lastly, if all else fails, you can flat-out call on people for responses by putting them on the spot. 

6. The meeting room turns hostile

Are meetings productive if the group dynamic is terrible?

For example, your associates are jumping into the thick of things with engagement but in a negative way. Toxic behavior can be a direct sign of employee dissatisfaction with meetings:

  • Blaming and shaming

  • Resistance to change

  • Arguing

  • Topic hijacking

Hostility during a meeting can escalate and cause long-lasting damage to your business. 

How to send hostility packing

Creating company policies and sticking to them can mitigate hostility in the meeting room. You should make a meeting room etiquette policy on what is expected in meetings: 

  • Conduct

  • Culture

  • Productivity

  • Transparency

When problems pop up within the meeting, asking participants for solutions or taking a break can help cooler heads prevail. 

Remember that some conflict is good because it can lead to new ideas. If conflict is allowed to occur, it should at least be constructive. 

As a business owner, transparency can help you significantly with company culture. Company culture and employee morale can also improve conduct within the meeting room. 

When a meeting turns hostile, it can sometimes result from topic hijacking or catering to the loudest voice in the room and going in that direction for the discussion. If this is a common problem in your meetings, you need a strong meeting leader who will keep the conversation contained to agenda topics. 

Having  easy-to-follow agendas that everyone has access to can help your group stay on topic. 

7. Lack of communication and follow-up

Your meeting should not be the only time your team hears about the information on your company. If the meeting is not very effective, you are bound to have people who didn't get the memo on essential updates. 

You need to do two critical things after you meet to polish it off:

  1. Send out a reminder about what was in the meeting

  2. Follow through with what you discussed in the meeting

How to reduce meetings with meeting follow-ups

When you follow up with your participants after the meeting, it helps avoid excessive meetings at work where you need to discuss the same material. Additionally, if you follow through with the plans made in the meeting, then you will be reaping the benefits of the time spent:

  • Boosting morale by not wasting time and engaging your team on big decisions

  • Gaining feedback on how effective the plan and meeting was by seeing it in action

  • Running your company efficiently by creating obtainable goals and plans on which everyone agrees

You can set reminders to follow through on plans and send out recaps after the meeting. 

If you spotted more than one of these issues at your recent meetings, then you need some adjustments. Grok can help you set up your meetings for success. 

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